Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Seven Months of Silence

It has been over seven months now since I have uttered a word to another human being. I have to admit I mutter to myself on occasion, to the landlord’s cat who visits from time to time, and to my resident Pooh bears. But, I have been speechless around human beings.

In some ways, this project has been relatively easy. The way life runs lately, there are only a few people I run into on a regular basis. Workers at the grocery, post office and credit union. They have gotten used to my silence once I presented my “Mum is the word card” to them. 

I have somewhat unknowingly found two pretty effective ways to distance people. One by going silent. Few people want to deal with my scribbling on a pad of paper while they talk and have to wait when I am writing. I must also admit that I find it a difficult way to communicate and that I don’t go looking for “conversations.”

[My time of silence has caused me to reflect on “conversations” in general. I have to say that it seems that we are all caught up in our own worlds and that many conversations are empty of content.]

The other way I have found to distance people is to ask for them to do a book review. Most of those I have asked, after readily agreeing to write a review, have become invisible as well as non-communicating. 

I was asked by a 90+ year-old friend in a letter – remember those – a few days ago about my silence project. One thought I shared with her was that silence is another language we all might want to learn. I don’t expect television, telephone or the internet on the other side - heaven or whatever it is. Nor do I think we will be talking. To communicate, we will use telepathy or thought projection or something similar. Some people can do it now. Maybe we all can communicate telepathically when we have great need or desire.

So then, learning silence should have “long-term” value. When we silence our mouths and settle our minds – which is even harder, we will surely have better potential for “speaking silently” and with meaning.

Sound and speech have much greater power and value than we give them. Part of a simple and useful life might well include speaking less and sharing more. When we do speak, our words will have more value and force.

What do we presently create when we often speak without thinking and just say whatever comes out of our mouths? We would like to suppose that “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” but that may often be the case.

May we think, speak and act with goodwill to all.

Post comments below or send them to theportableschool at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Seven Weeks of Silence

A Year of Silence? Ah, the idea is a bit unusual to people when they first hear of it or encounter it. Most people shrug or give me a positive sign or say, "Right on." Still, I suspect most of them really don't know what to think.

Why be silent, when you have vocal apparatus? Was one response.

Isn’t being silent then disrespectful to people who talk? Or wasteful? Or who knows, unnatural? 

I will admit that not speaking in the modern “civilized” world is rather unusual. Unless one is deaf and dumb, or has a really bad case of laryngitis. But, I think the other responses are off the mark.

• Disrespectful? 

Actually, silence opens the possibility of greater respect, better listening. Refraining from idle talk and gossip and negative words which all of us are prone to express. Often without even realizing our intent or effect.

Silence allows us time and space from so much mind to open to more heart. Maybe the Year will bring more heart to bear in my interactions with others. I already realize that once people recognize I am being Silent by choice, I don’t have to come up with conversation. I potentially can be more present. 

On the other hand, I am still getting used to the situation and so are others I meet. Time will tell. 

• Wasteful? 

Well, I believe firmly that we waste lots and lots of energy with words. 

It has been suggested to me that I may lose my voice during a Year of Silence. That suggestion holds little concern for me. I have talked for 68 years, I am not likely to forget how to talk. Nor is the body going lose the ability. Besides, I chant three times a day with my meditations. 

But, that aside, I do think that my voice and words will be more valuable and potent at the end of a Year of Silence than before. My old friend Jim Kinerk used to call me Boomer. I have not the slightest concern about “losing my voice.” I think it more likely that I will come closer to expressing my Real Voice after the Year.

I will learn a bit from having listened better to my fellow beings, from observing the nature of words and sounds, and maybe even from developing the ability to hear the Inner Voice. Besides, Actions speak louder than Words. If we talked less, maybe we would have more time to do positive things. We can then exemplify rather than tout ourselves and our beliefs.

• Unnatural? I think not. Maybe unhabitual, if there is such a word. How often do we speak without thinking, just pouring words out by habit, unconsciously, with little or no awareness sometimes of what is rolling off our lips? 

I believe Nature and God speak with deliberation and power. Rhythmically, sonorously, and healthfully. They know what They are "talking" about. Humans - including myself - too often do the opposite. How often have we wished to take back vain words and comments and complaints and mouthings dribbled from our lips? 

I might add that I have, in recent times, communicated with a number of people from my past - sometimes distant past. I have tendered several of them apologies - sometimes making amends - for the wrong words or words wrongly spoken. My former wife used to say, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” 

I am still learning that lesson, maybe a Year of Silence will help me come closer to completing that rather difficult learning.

There is another version of my ex-wife's adage: "It's not what you do, but how you do it." Just being silent is only part of the process. The other part - an more important - I am learning is how to be silent.

Every moment, past present and future is an opportunity for learning. Hopefully I eventually will learn to emulate Mahatma Gandhi who is said to have mouthed these words wonderful words: 

“SPEAK only to improve the SILENCE.”

Comments are welcome below or by email at theportableschool at gmail dot com.

If you are a mind, take a look my other blog called The Healing Post.

Have Jolly Holiday, silent or otherwise.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Silent Path

During the past four summers 2012-15, I have done Cross-Country Walks. More accurately, they might be called Cross-Parts-of-the-Country Walks. During and after them, I have blogged here On the Road Again. 

While I attempted no Walk this summer, I did decide in the past couple of months to set out on a year of Silence. The next calendar year might be considered one of No Walk, No Talk. 

But, that might not be totally true as I will continue walking the countryside, mostly along highways and the Musselshell River, near my current residence in Harlowton MT. It was only a few weeks ago that I discovered a wonderful place to walk to the northeast of town. Taking one route or the other by way of Highway 191 North, I get glorious views of a number of mountain ranges of which the Crazies are the most absorbing. The distant mountains backgrounding the Big Sky Montana prairies makes for some breathtaking moments.

A photo of the Crazies - south of Harlowton - from 2012 Walk

Well, walking is secondary this year especially as I have determined to do a 
Year of Silence. 

“What? You don’t mean it. Maybe a week or a month. But, not a year! You must be crazy!”

Those remarks were not all from the same person. I ran a few together, leaving out a few others, some of which were more worrisome.

The idea of silence seems to be offensive to some and scary to others. Some might think it unusual for a friendly, conversational sort as I can be. While I grew up a shy introvert, the last time I took the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test I came out 50-50 Introvert vs Extrovert.

Sometimes, I find myself too out-there, verbal and mouthy. A good share of the times I have gotten myself in trouble, my mouth has been a prime contributor.

There are numbers of contributing forces to this silent venture of which I will certainly mention in later posts. But, there are also numerous potential benefits which I may gather:

• Listening better. Rather than getting ready to jump into a conversation with comment.

• Being present and positive in presence only.

• Silencing the mouth tends eventually to silence the mind.

• Slowing down the pace of things in general.

• Developing the capacity to hear the still, small voice.

A year from now I will have some sense as to whether I have accomplished any of these aspirations and possibilities.

In the meantime, I will put up a post every month or so to share reflections on my Silent Path.

Share comments below or send to theportableschool at gmail dot com.

Many good wishes along the way, Robert

Friday, April 1, 2016

Presidential Politics - The Great Perennials: Guess Who Is Next?

The Presidential campaign has been ongoing for many months and has several more to run. The choices are slimming down it seems to two - maybe more. Then, what?

What will we have? A new president. But we may well have much of the same circling, squabbling chicane (the French might say) in Washington DC. Much as legislators and lawyers seem to do most everywhere.

Not, that we have not had choices. I can’t help but wonder if maybe we have allowed to pass by too many choices, some of whom might have been much better than the nominated and elected ones over the generations.

Think for a moment with me about the also-rans and the perennials at the ballot box?

Consider if you wish -

William Jennings Bryan (1860 to 1925) was a regular on the stump in his day. He began as a Congressman from Nebraska, but had a great taste for the Presidency. He ran three times as the nominee of the Democratic and Populist parties in 1896, 1900, and 1908.  WJB was a man of the people without doubt. A Populist, Popocrat, a Fundamentalist Pope (said HL Mencken), the Great Commoner, a Social Gospeler. Eventually, he settled for Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson.

William Jennings Bryan is renowned for so many things. From developing the first semblance of a modern presidential campaign to holding a vision of hope for the common and forgotten man to speaking and traveling the country unceasingly. As The Christian Liberal, Bryan mixed and re-mixed God and politics in over the course of 40 years of his public life. He is remembered by some for his Cross of Gold and Crown of Thorns speech at the Democratic National Convention of 1896. But, Bryan is possibly best known for his participation in the Scopes Monkey Trial which was immortalized in the movie Inherit the Wind starring Spencer Tracy. 


Eugene Debs (1855 to 1926) was a union leader and founder of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies). He ran five times for the Socialist Party as its candidate for President. He never got close to the White House but he did become the best known socialist in America.

Debs helped to motivate the left wing of American society in opposition to corporations and to World War I. He has been honored for his work in the labor movements and for his compassion to average workers toward socialistic improvements without large government interventions.

Harold Stassen (1907 to 2001) beats all candidates over the years for desire, persistence and effort towards the US Presidency. He is best known as THE Perennial Candidate. After being Governor of Minnesota and President of the University of Pennsylvania, he put his sights on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC.

Stassen sought the nomination of the Republican Party on nine different occasions: 1944, 1948, 1952, 1964, 1968, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992. He supposedly was still campaigning seriously for President in the year 2000 when he was in his nineties and within a year of his death. [Interestingly, I find no mention of what he was promoting in his candidacies, other than himself.]

Ron Paul (born 1935) has been the latest perennial candidate, running twice as a Republican and once as the nominee of the Libertarian Party in the 1988 presidential election.

Paul is known as a physician, author and politician. The Texan represented two different districts for 24 years in the US House of Representatives. He has been a firm critic of the Federal Reserve, tax policies, the military-industrial complex, and the War on Drugs among other governmental interventions. Less Government has been Dr. No's continuing theme. Nearing the age of 80, he has backed away from presidential campaigning to allow his son Rand Paul to carry on some of his efforts.

On the lighter side of things, you must remember:
Pat Paulsen (1927 to 1997) campaigned frequently for the Presidency. Paulsen was a comedian, not a politician. But many in Washington seem to fit that description.

Paulsen was a regular on the Smothers Brothers television show in the 70s. But his taste for the Presidency persisted in campaigns of 1968, 1972, 1980, 1988, 1992, and 1996. His message may have been garbled, but he got plenty of laughs along the way as well as some protest votes.

In a likewise light, but wholesome vein Winston Pooh assures us that he will be a persistent and perennial candidate for the US Presidency and American hearts and minds.

The photo above was taken on our first campaign trip from Arizona to Montana. Mr. Pooh collected a modest number of committed, many of them will only be legal many years from now as the younger folks grow up.

His platform is about friends and family taking care rather than relying on government and grants. Take time - not money - to be your Brother's Keeper and help yourself along the way.

Winston (as in Churchill) Pooh looks for the sweeter simpler life.


How about you?

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Photoblog 2015 - Part 3

First spotting the sign for the oncoming state is always a bit of a thrill.
I had ridden on the back of a pickup passing from Arizona into Utah.
Utah to Wyoming was on foot.
Pooh and I were just cutting across the southwestern corner of Wyoming into Idaho,
so the next chapter was looking to be fairly quick.

I have had but very rare interactions with motorcyclists.
But on this trip, I had two encounters (one noted in a recent blog).
It had been a rainy morning when these folks stopped to visit.
Roy and Lisa quickly said Hello, 
we traded photos and went on our separate ways.
Pooh and I were glad to walk,
am sure Roy and Lisa preferred their move of transport.

The two young fellows were circling around on an ATV one day
and eventually stopped to visit.
Gage and Hunter live near Georgetown, Idaho.
We had a short talk and I got another good photo.

 This shot was taken on one of the last walking days of 2015.
Speaks for itself.

My last "campout" of 2015 was on the Jefferson Hills Golf Course north of Rigby, Utah. 
Not much for hills, but pretty country.
Be careful of extra careful of sprinklers if you ever decide to nap on a golf course.

Leave comments below or send to theportableschool at gmail dot com.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Photoblog 2015 - Part 1

I met this impressive young man working at a convenience mart in Blanding.
He had left Fort Defiance and was working,
raising a family and going to school.
He impressed me with his work ethic. I wish he had impressed me with his name.
I salute him nonetheless.

Mark Bradford found me swept up with just a little rain the next morning.
He stopped and lifted me to Monticello.
It was a Saturday, but he was still working two jobs
one for the county, and the other for himself.
Thanks Mark.

I was walking down a highway grade toward Moab
when Anthony - once from the East, presently from Salt Lake -
stopped to visit and share some treats for the road.
I hear from Anthony every once in a while.

I forgot their names as soon as I got out of their car.
Smiling, friendly teachers from Alberta
accidentally "ran into me" while turning back to Moab.
We had a great visit on the way to town, said goodbye,
and I lost their names.
Forgive me and thank you.

No, it isn't Demi Moore.
But, a young woman who works at a bike shop,
saw me passing by and asked about my endeavor.
Then, I asked for a photo.

I had a friendly visit with John Ryan, high school principal in Connecticut,
while he waited in a parking lot in Moab for his family to appear.
Good looking bunch.
Wish we had teachers like when I was a youngster.

Consult earlier blogs for more photos.
Email theportableschool at gmail dot com with comments or post below.